JAMA Logo Almost 5.9 percent of teen females and 4.6 percent teen males are probably suffering from major depressive disorder. According to a recent study, most depressed teenagers provided with treatment appear to recover, but the condition returns in almost half of the patients especially among females. It was ascertained that female adolescents are the strongest predictors of recurrence.

196 adolescents enrolled in the Treatment for Adolescents With Depression Study (TADS) were encompassed in the present study. From the total number of volunteers, 86 were males and 110 females. Experts randomly assigned the teenagers to receive one of four short-term treatment interventions. Study subjects were either subjected to a medication with fluoxetine hydrochloride, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a combination of the two or placebo. All the participants were followed up for five years.

Authors comment, “Our results reinforce the importance of modifying a short-term treatment that leads to partial response or non-response because these were associated with less likelihood of recovery in two years. The finding that recurrence rates increased significantly from two to three years after baseline suggests that recurrence prevention efforts, such as symptom or medication monitoring or cognitive behavioral therapy booster sessions may be of value beyond the [18-week] maintenance period included in TADS. Female sex was the most robust predictor of recurrence, indicating the importance of understanding and reducing the vulnerabilities of female adolescents to recurrent episodes.”

96.4 percent of the patients probably recovered from their initial episode of depression during the follow-up period, including 88.3 percent who recovered within two years. 79.1 percent of the subjects responding to a 12-week treatment session, also referred to as short-term responders, may have recovered by two years. John Curry, Ph.D., of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., and colleagues affirm that two-year recovery is not linked with any particular type of treatment. From the 189 adolescents who recovered from depression 88 forming 46.6 percent reported a recurrence.

At the time of the study short-term treatment non-responders were apparently more likely to experience recurrence as compared to full and partial responders. Participants diagnosed with an anxiety disorder were supposedly more capable of going through recurrence. 61.9 percent teens with anxiety disorders and 42.2 percent without it registered a return. Teenagers whose depression returned seemingly had higher scores on scales of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

The study is published online and will appear in the March 2011 print issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.